Pilot rice project deal signed with Philippines

An agricultural cooperation signing for a pilot rice project took place at 14-Mile outside Port Moresby at 4pm yesterday.

Visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who arrived early on the morning of November 16th, was scheduled to visit the farm yesterday afternoon and also sign an MoU with the PNG Government and the Pacific Adventist University. However, he was unable to attend as Prime Minister Peter O'Neill could not make it as well.

The 25-hectare project was initiated in January this year. Land was cleared in July and 19 Filipino farmers commenced planting in September. The first harvest is expected in December.

The pilot project has four species of rice planted.

The objective of the concept of the development is to showcase PNG's irrigated rice farming potential to the visiting APEC economies and facilitate investment opportunities in commercial rice production.

Prime Minister O'Neill was unable to attend the signing due to a bilateral meeting with the Chinese President.

Agriculture and Livestock Minister Benny Allan, going back to the 2017 APEC meet, recalled discussions with the Philippines to grow rice in PNG through such projects.

“Like Philippines who eat rice, PNG we must grow rice too. We are serious about growing rice but lack technology and new friends to assist us,” stated Allan.

PNG imports 400,000 tonnes of rice on K5-6 million per year but have a big potential to grow rice.

The Philippines imports 8 million tonnes of rice per year, even that is still not enough to meet their demand.

The MoU signing between the Filipino secretary for Agriculture, Emmanuel Pinol, and Minister Allan, will see access to technical cooperation, among others.

Whilst the Philippines grow their own rice, PNG still imports and wants to tap into direct technical assistances with the Philippines through such an MoU.

“The MoU will pave way for investors to come inside PNG and invest. We have big potential. We are inviting investors to come in. W are ready. We just lack the technology,” Allan reiterated.

Speaker Job Pomat delivered the Prime Minister's speech and said the project will be replicated across PNG and surpluses can be exported to the Philippines.

The project will be expended out to commercial rice production.

A joint economic and trade committee was also signed yesterday and would foster trade opportunities through the Philippines-PNG Business Council.

Five of the rice planters were acknowledged as well. 14 had returned home to the Philippines due to visa issues.

Sally Pokiton